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The Boatman

The Boatman

Henry David Thoreau’s River Years

Robert M. Thorson

ISBN 9780674237414

Publication date: 04/30/2019

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As a backyard naturalist and river enthusiast, Henry David Thoreau was keenly aware of the many ways in which humans had altered the waterways and meadows of his beloved Concord River Valley. A land surveyor by trade, he recognized that he was as complicit in these transformations as the bankers, builders, and elected officials who were his clients. The Boatman reveals the depth of his knowledge about the river as it elegantly chronicles his move from anger to lament to acceptance of how humans had changed a place he cherished even more than Walden Pond.

“A scrupulous account of the environment Thoreau loved most… Thorson argues convincingly—sometimes beautifully—that Thoreau’s thinking and writing were integrally connected to paddling and sailing.”
Wall Street Journal

“An in-depth account of Thoreau’s lifelong love of boats, his skill as a navigator, his intimate knowledge of the waterways around Concord, and his extensive survey of the Concord River.”
—Robert Pogue Harrison, New York Review of Books

“An impressive feat of empirical research…an important contribution to the scholarship on Thoreau as natural scientist.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

The Boatman presents a whole new Thoreau—the river rat. This is not just groundbreaking, but fun.”
—David Gessner, author of All the Wild That Remains

Praise

  • The Boatman offers the first sustained account of what Henry Thoreau was doing on the local rivers before and after he sojourned at Walden Pond. Thoreau’s water world engaged his mind and eye, involved him in a major political dispute, and led him to far-reaching scientific insights. Paddling and sailing on the nearby waterways, Thoreau discerned a natural world transformed by human action, to the loss of the communities of all the living creatures who depended on it for survival. Explicating these insights into the ecology of rivers and into the power of ‘the wild,’ Robert Thorson reminds us why Thoreau is so essential to our environmentally imperiled times.

    —Robert A. Gross, author of The Minutemen and Their World

Author

  • Robert M. Thorson is Professor of Geology at the University of Connecticut.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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